Italy, Poland ‘to work together on new Europe’ - Salvini

Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini attends a joint news conference with Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski in Warsaw

Italy's pugnacious deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, called for an alliance with populists in Poland and elsewhere during a visit to Warsaw, setting the stage for a showdown with the EU establishment at European Parliament elections in May.

During a visit to Warsaw ahead of May elections to the European Parliament, Salvini told reporters that the two countries would be key players in a "new spring" in Europe.

"Europe should (finally) accept the hundreds of migrants that it pledged to take away from Italy last summer", Salvini posted on Facebook.

The vote could see nationalist and far-right parties across Europe upset the bloc's balance of power, which is now dominated by the centre-right.

"And I add that any new arrival must not cost Italian citizens a cent", Salvini said, insisting that "it's the interior ministry that handles immigration". "The Franco-German axis may be replaced by an Italian-Polish axis".

Salvini could try to unite the Europe of Nations and Freedom bloc, to which his League belongs, with the European Conservatives and Reformists group which includes PiS to create a single, powerful eurosceptic force in the EU Parliament. "We will provide the blood for a new European community based on respect, work, growth and equality".

Salvini is also meeting with Joachim Brudzinski, the interior minister, but the meeting with Kaczynski is being watched with greater interest given Kaczynski's role as the country's de facto leader, the official understood to be the real power behind the government despite his lack of any formal government portfolio.

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Brudzinski said he rejected accusations that the Polish and Italian governments were seeking to leave the EU, saying their aim is "to have influence on what our common, European home is going to look like".

"Different member states are treated quite differently in very similar situations, so this probably a definition of discrimination, isn't it?"

"One country has a budget deficit of 2.4 percent (Italy) and another country has a deficit exceeding 3 percent (France)... and they are treated differently because of some other aspects", he said, referring to a budget dispute between Brussels and Rome. "So with Mr Salvini we are on the same page with regards to many European matters".

Since taking office in 2015, the PiS government has put Poland on a collision course with the European Union over a string of controversial judicial reforms.

Brussels insists the measures pose a threat to judicial independence, the rule of law and ultimately to democracy.

Warsaw recently backed down from its reform aimed at retiring Supreme Court judges, under pressure from Brussels.

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